Very special - masses of flowers to feast my eyes and cameras on! I took loads - my SLR and my digital did some good work that day!
See buckets of roses, sunflowers, masses of reds or yellows or purples or pretty mixes.
Up to 60,000 transactions are handled a day Monday to Friday so it is big business - held in a huge complex out at Aalsmeer 45 minutes by frequent bus 171 and 172 from Liedesplein or about 60 minutes from Central Station, Amsterdam.
Just the facts ma'm:
1. this complex was opened on the 28th of February 1972 and is continously expanding
2. The Auction is co-operative and has 3.500 members (the actual growers)
3. Flowers and plants are delivered in evening and at night from 7.000 growers.
4. the complex holds a refrigerated space of 40.000 m2 to preserve the flowers and plants in top-condition
5. every day 21.000.000 flowers/plants are auctioned of 11.000 different varieties
6. in five auction halls there are 13 electronically functioning clocks
7. every day 55.000 logistic transactions for supply are processed
8. Flower Auction Aalsmeer has 1.300 registered (regular) buyers
9. at the complex over 12.000 people find their daily work, of which a staff of 1.900
10. yearly 5 billion (cut)flowers and 520 million plants are distributed to consumers all over the world
11. Flower Auction Aalsmeer is the world's largest central trade building with roughly the size of 145 football fields
12. almost 90% of all trade has a foreign destination (export)
13. annual turnover is a rough 1,5 billion euro, which means an average of 6 million a day
14. every day about 2.000 freight vehicles are arriving and leaving the complex
15. the Flower Auction Aalsmeer gets visited by 115.000 tourists every year
16. the roof parking gives space to 4.500 cars
In early medieval times the Dutch discovered that their peat actually was a first form of organic fuel. Massively and until the late 19th century throughout various provinces peat digging started and was quite the profitable industry. However, digging in a country that is already under sealevel can be seen as not that clever and soon one started to pay the price for the attack that one made on natural balance. Huge lakes started to appear in the landscape. Large enough to endanger villages that were on the border of the water. With storm, floadings wiped out many area's and dikes only prevented in the average cases. Therefor in the late medieval times the Dutch started to pump the lakes dry with their famous poldering techniques (windmills included). Many lakes disappeared, but several are still left and now form very popular water recreation area's. Aalsmeer is bordering the "Westeinder plassen" (Westend lakes), a perfect example of peat digging lakes that now-a-days are very popular with water sport lovers. Swimming, surfing, waterskiing, diving and in very cold winters also scating. In connection with the entangled system of waterways land inwards boating in general is also one of the most popular water recreations in this area. In the URL a link to boat rentals in this surroundings, especially houseboats.
Flower parades are popular in the Netherlands. Many districts have a parade somewhere in the year, but the parade of all parades is definately the one of the flowerdistrict between Leiden and Haarlem ("Bloemencorso van de bollenstreek" always the last weekend in April). Probably next is the one of Aalsmeer, which is going from Aalsmeer surroundings North-East towards Amsterdam and is very popular among tourists too. this parade is always held in the first weekend of September. In the parade dozens of dressed up cars are a very happy and funny sight for eyes.
To keep the land dry, The Netherlands have a very dense system in waterways. Especially in the polders that are beneath sea level these waterways are of life importance. Without them one wouldn't keep their feet dry. Ditches take care of the draining water in the soil and the ground water. This gets lifted (often by smaller windmills) into a higher larger ditch or a canal. From here it goes to the "ringvaart" (ring canal) that surrounds the polder and has a main outlet (or a few) that lead away to sea. With low tide the water gets pumped into the sea, thus keeping the water balance up, in the polders. If in The Netherlands all water draining installations (variating from windmills to diesel pumping stations) would stop, one third of the country would be under water within 24 hours. Aalsmeer and surroundings as well.
Aalsmeer, close to Amsterdam and yet not overpopulated and in the possession of some open space (in both land as well as water), has in the last decades attracted quite some wealthy people towards it's bounderies. One can see this when driving around the outskirts of Aalsmeer and sees the villa's, bungalows and mansions with wide well-taken-care-off gardens. A scenic drive around town can be nice and shows many of these homes of the rich ... and sometimes famous.
Surrounding Aalsmeer, but also in various other places throughout The Netherlands, there are glass cities. Nowhere on earth you will find such a very dense greenhouse surface and the annual production isn't only the top of the world, but leaves all others far far behind. But Aalsmeer also can count on the enormous production of flowers in the open fields nearby (between Leiden and Haarlem). If you are intrested you might take an attempt to visit a grower, but ... not all are welcoming strangers as for preventing contamination and quality insurance is very strict. In Aalsmeer however we have the historical gardens (see next tip)
Just outside the centre of Aalsmeer a street runs outbound the town and has two canals running beside it. Bridges connect to various monumental farmhouses and one of them invites you for a closer look. these are the historical gardens of Aalsmeer and here you get to know the amazing past about how the production of flowers and especially plants became so super in and around this place. There are examples of outside growing as well as several greenhouses that show the year'round production under glass. Horticulture in the top class of the world.
Within the old centre of Aalsmeer you will find the "Old Auction-house", now-a-days a café-restaurant, art exposition space, library and society building. Here the growers of Aalsmeer started in 1912 their first auction house, which however already bursted out of it's walls of lack in space in 1928. The flowers and plants then were deliverd from far surroundings by boat and only the last few hundred meters transported by car. Also after the selling, masses of boats left with the flowers and plants. Many in the direction of Amsterdam.
Maybe one of the most explicit prooves how important (plant and) tree growers were in Aalsmeer and surroundings, can be seen at the tree growers cemetry in the town itself. Yes, you hear it well, the honoured growers of trees did have their own resting ground just next to the Roman Catholic church and the Carmalites monastry. However, looking more close to the cemetry it becomes clear that the name only was given as the tree growers were responsible for the surroundings and the graves were all taken by city officials. In between 1875 and 1970 they found their peace here.
Strange as it is, you won't be able to buy flowers at the auction. Simply enough, you're not a buyer unless you want to go home with a few hundred bouquets ... a day! (-:
Flowers can be bought in many shops, as well as tankingstations. The quality variated from excellent towards lousy. Growers in the surrounding of Aalsmeer however also often offer flowers for sale along the road. One then simply sees a little stable with buckets full of bouquets of flowers and a box in which one can deposite the requested amount of money. Prices here are often half or less then the consumerprice in shops and life span of the flowers is considerably longer.
When entering the historical gardens from the road side you pass a beautiful farmhouse. This historical monument was the living house of Joost Timmers, a master carpenter and windmill-builder. He lived here until 1825 when the house became the property of the family Maarse. They rebuilt the farmhouse in a smaller summerhouse and grew until 1975 dahlia and clematis on the soil surrouding the house. Now the house is the entrance gate to the historical gardens of Aalsmeer (see earlier tip).
In the Netherlands we have two towns that are connected with television. Hilversum for the "state"-TV (the Dutch broadcasting companies that are connected to the "public"). And Aalsmeer that holds the studio-complexes of Ende-Mol directly related to the RTL-broadcasting stations and other commercial enterprices. The studios also invite people in as audience with shows and quizzes. Commercial TV now-a-days is big (too big in my opinion) and ruining the intellect of the masses. For those who are however interested in Ende-Mol, the URL will bring you into their world.
The auction, the greenhouses, the flowers and related items as well as the "Westeinder plassen" (Westend lakes) are definately must-see activities in Aalsmeer. For the Dutch the Ende-Mol studios can also be quite interesting. As the town itself, often it is left aside the road or quickly driven through. To anyway give a small impression I have put the remaining tips in the "off the beaten path" section, as I consider Aalsmeer itself as such.
This is the biggest flower-auction of the world, you will have to come early to see the auction in action. You will see outside lots of little carts full of plants and flowers and inside the auction is busy with lots of bidders.